One of the most common pieces of machinery in use in the maintenance shops on campus is the abrasive wheel grinder. These useful machines, used to remove metal from flat and cylindrical surfaces, are available in two types. Some are bench or pedestal grinders that stay in one place. The others are portable abrasive tools that are used for repair jobs elsewhere in the facility.
There is also more than one type of grinder design. On some, the abrasive wheels are mounted so only the exposed flat side is used for grinding. Other machines are designed so that the grinding is done on the circumference of the wheel. Some grinders also have wire brush or buffing wheel attachments.
People who regularly use abrasive wheel grinders may not be aware of their hazards. You have to keep in mind that while these machines have flat surfaces, they are cutting tools. Depending on the operation and equipment, the wheels can revolve at an incredible 10,000 surface feet per minute. You don’t want to make contact with something going at that rate of speed!
It’s clear that people don’t take abrasive wheel safety seriously enough when you look at a list of OSHA’s most frequently violated standards. Abrasive wheel violations always rank high—right up there with hazard communication and lockout/tagout. In one recent year, OSHA found 1,704 violations related to abrasive wheel exposure adjustments, with 1,449 of them serious. That was the eighth most frequent violation for the year.
Violations, of course, are only part of the story. What’s really important is the fact that you can be seriously injured if you’re not careful with these machines.